Militants attack air force base in central Pakistan, says military

By Gibran Naiyyar Peshimam

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) -Nine Islamist militants attacked an air force training base in the central Pakistani area of Mianwali on Saturday damaging three “non-operational” aircraft, the military said, adding that all assailants had been killed by security forces.

Three militants were killed before they entered the base while the others had been cornered before the clearance operation began, the military said in a statement. It did not mention any casualties amongst security personnel.

The early Saturday attack startled residents living close by when volleys of gunfire broke the morning silence.

“I woke up at around 3 a.m. after I heard massive gun shots which continued till around 7 a.m.,” Zeeshan Niazi, a resident of Mianwali, told Reuters.

The military said nine militants had been killed in the attack on the Pakistan Air Force Training Airbase Mianwali. An earlier statement said that six militants were involved in the attack.

“No damage has been done to any of the Pakistan Air Force’s functional operational assets, while only some damage was done to three already phased out non-operational aircraft during the attack,” the military statement said. It earlier said a fuel tanker had also been damaged in the attack.

“Due to the swift and effective response by the troops, (the attack) has been foiled and thwarted, ensuring the safety and security of personnel and assets,” the statement said.

Islamist militant group Tehreek-e-Jihad Pakistan (TJP) claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement sent to journalists by its spokesperson.

TJP came to the fore only this year and little is known about the group, which has carried out a string of high-profile attacks in the country, including killing 12 soldiers at a Pakistani military base in the southwestern province of Balochistan in July.

(Reporting by Gibran Peshimam; Additional reporting by Saud Mehsud in Dera Ismail Khan and Mubasher Bukhari in Lahore; Editing by William Mallard and Jamie Freed)